Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maroger Medium

First Day of Spring
10 x 8
It was too nice to stay in the studio the other day so I took the paints to my favourite park.  This little piece was all that I had time for, but I like it; it captures the airy, sunny glare of the scene.  You have to imagine the incessant bird song as they sing for their mates, and the rushing sound of the river just on the other side of this little bank.  It was a magical couple of hours and worth all of the mud on my boots and car mats.

Because I was outside, I allowed myself a smelly medium instead of my usual walnut oil.  I brought Maroger medium, beloved of David Leffel and Gregg Kruetz.  It smells powerfully, has lead in it, and has a lovely, silky consistency with just a hint of stickiness as it starts to set.  You can see my dilemma.

The detail shows the range of marks that are possible with Maroger, from the slight skiff of the ochre scumble in the upper left to the brushy, impasto marks in the snow.  The marks sit nicely on top of each other without settling down and losing their individuality, something that's very important when you're trying to make every brushstroke count.

It's not something that I can use in the studio - it makes me dizzy after inhaling it for a day and the lead exposure worries me for daily use - but I keep it for the occasional outdoor day as a treat and try not to get too attached to its working qualities.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Contemporary Floral

Bucket Bouquet
40 x 30
How do you take a traditional - and feminine - subject like florals and make them contemporary?  I've given that a lot of thought because I love to paint flowers but don't like them to look like they should only be in a woman's room. ``Bucket Bouquet`` is an attempt to bring flowers into a more modern context.

I used a lot of my new favourite colour, pthalo green, in this piece; I bought it for Mexico and am hooked, for now, at least.  It`s powerful and quite unnatural, forcing me to avoid an earthy background which puts the painting into a more traditional setting.  By putting that colour in early, I could guide the painting towards my goal, because no realistic painting of flowers would harmonize with it.  This was liberating!  The flowers became simply colour, mass, edge and pattern, and I could explore those elements without feeling like I had to define a single bloom.  I enjoyed creating and then obscuring the silhouette of the flowers against their background, trying to get as many interesting edges as possible.

Some other deliberate choices that I made to update this floral were to use a paint bucket to display the bouquet rather than a pretty vase, and to fragment the table on which the display sat.

This painting feels edgier than my usual work, but I like it.  It`s definitely not my grandmother`s floral bouquet!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Openings in my Spring Class

I've got two spaces in the upcoming spring session of my painting from life course at the
Calgary School of Art :

Interpreting Still Life and Landscape: a Painting from Life Course 

Dates: Tuesdays April 16 to June 18
            There will be one full plein air day; your choice of either June 8 or 15.  You may do both for an extra fee of $60.

Price: $360 + gst

This course uses the still life and plein air scene in front of you as a starting point for exciting colour interpretation, brush work, and compositional manipulation.   You don't have to "paint what you see"; you can paint what you want to see and what you feel, instead. 

Beginning with still life, we'll explore rhythm, colour, and technique with an emphasis on finding your own personal aesthetic and developing it over time. 

Then, as the weather warms up, we'll move to local parks for plein air painting.  Our focus, however, will remain the same: your paintings will become a reflection of your own developing style and interests. 

There will be rain and snow, and we won't be tough guys about it.  That's when we'll meet back in the studio and develop our paintings from photos, sketches and memory.  

I hope you'll join the class!

Please contact me for more information or to register.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Paint with me in Croatia: April 29 to May 8, 2014

I'm announcing a new workshop for 2014 on the outrageously-picturesque island of 
Korčula. Croatia.  This is what it looks like:

 A few minutes on Google Images made my head spin and my plein air yearnings swell.  

I'm offering this one week workshop in conjunction with Slikamilina Painting and Photography Tours, a Canadian-Croatian company that has a long and successful history of taking tours to the island.   From the glowing reports that I received from artists who have taken groups to the island with them, Slikamilina does a fantastic job of pampering their groups and showing them the best painting spots in the area.  

The workshop  fee covers all  instruction, meals, accommodation and transportation.  You'll be picked up and dropped off at the airport in Dubrovnik and we'll be transported daily to new painting sites.  

This workshop will focus on both plein air painting and portraiture.  

See my website for more information about the tour and fees, and the Korčula Info Guide for images and information about this amazing island.

I hope you'll join me for this great adventure!
A painter in Paradise

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two-Part Portrait Workshop at the Calgary School of Art

I'm trying a new format for teaching portraiture at the Calgary School of Art. It will be a two-part workshop on April 26 and 27. I've taught a lot of portrait workshops in the past few months, and decided that I'd address the two things that were the most problematic: photo references and time constraints. 

While I think it's possible to paint a convincing portrait from a photo, I think it's much harder than doing it from life. Photos flatten the dimensionality of the face, and don't allow you to see the myriad, complex colours that make up skin and hair. So this workshop will allow students the opportunity to paint from life - something that I know they'll fall in love with. They'll also pick up some skills that they can use when they go back to photo references: an understanding of the forms of the face, and the temperature and colour changes that are possible within faces.

And time: there's never enough of it in a one-day workshop. A swift-but-decent demo takes at least 1 1/2 hours out of a 6 hour painting workshop and that doesn't leave much time for students to try out what they've seen, let alone finish a painting. The fix: do the demo the day before. 

On April 26th, I'll do a 3 hour demo in the afternoon, finishing a portrait from a model and still allowing time for explanations, questions, and breaks (who doesn't love a doughnut?) The demo is open to anyone who wants to register, whether they plan to attend the workshop or not. 

I think this will be a great opportunity to learn portraiture in a deep and meaningful way. I hope you'll join me for a great couple of days!

April 26: Demo 1 pm - 4 pm 
April 27: Workshop 10am - 4pm 


$150 for demo and workshop 
*there will be an additional $15 model fee, collected in cash on the day of the workshop* 

$50 for demo only

Friday, March 8, 2013

Calgary Sketch Club Demo

Borrowed Scarf
20 x 16
2 hour demo

I'm always thrilled to be asked to do a painting demo.  The tension of talking about my process, answering questions and observing the model well enough to capture a likeness is invigorating and some of my best paintings have been created under these circumstances.  While I won't go so far as to say that I work best under pressure, it sure does focus the mind and you don't do any useless fiddling about.

This portrait was painted in 2 hours last night in front of members of the Calgary Sketch Club.  The image to the left is where I left off at the end of the demo and the large picture above is the finished piece.  I put in another hour or so this morning while it was still wet and the model's face was still clear in my mind.  Most of the work was just a matter of strengthening the paint in thin areas and creating linkages of colour throughout the piece.  I also toned down the reflected colour on the neck and chin area.  It was too strong and the audience said so, but it's a dangerous thing to make huge changes in a few minutes, so I saved it till today.

Of course he stimulation of painting at night kept me awake for hours, but it was worth it.  There's nothing better than painting, not even sleep.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Cure for Insomnia

4 am
16 x 12

4 pm
16 x 12
So the title is a bit misleading.  Consolation for insomnia is more like it.  While on the retreat, I found myself wide awake at odd hours; the sound of the surf, a new bed, the excitement, and the farmer's hours (early to bed, up with the sun) conspired to have me staring at the ceiling when I should have been asleep.  But there's always a silver lining: this could be painting time.

I had my pochade box in the room with me and a perfectly-placed mirror so I got up, turned on the lamp over the bed and painted a self portrait by its distant, yellow glow.  It really was painting blind because I couldn't distinguish one dark colour from another, but, since I lay out the paints in the same order each time, I knew what I was picking up.  Mixing was a total crap shoot, but I followed the simple rule of "warm light, cool shadows" and mixed a lot of green into the face to provide a temperature contrast to the yellow light on the hair.  My board was already dark from a wiped off painting a couple of days before but I felt that a warm, reddish tone would go well under the greens and keep them from getting too grassy.   By the time I finished "4 am" I was invigorated and ready to tackle the day's teaching; it was my warm up painting.   About the rather dire expression - it was 4 am, after all.

"4 pm" was done the next afternoon in the lull between the end of the painting day and dinner.  The light is considerably cooler despite being Mexican light, and came in from the window to my right.  That's the thing about colour temperature: it's all relative.  Mexico's light is warmer, in general, than Calgary's, but still reads as a cool compared to an incandescent light under a yellowish lamp shade.  I could put a lot of blue in the lights of the face and there were warm mixtures in the shadow side.  Adding to the general lighting confusion was the fact that the walls in my bedroom were a buttery yellow and bounced colour onto my clothing and face.  It was an interesting exercise.  I prefer the milder expression in this one, I must admit, but there's something to be said for the honesty of "4 am" so I'll post it, scowl and all.